What Discovery of Oldest Human Poop Reveals About Neanderthals’ Diet
Neanderthals have consumed vegetables — we know that it has definitely been put under the microscope, thanks to the oldest piece of human fecal matter ever found.
Five soil samples from a known Neanderthal site in El Salt in Spain are thought to be obtained and are estimated to date back around 50,000 years.
The find puts to shame the previous oldest hominid poop discovered in the Western Hemisphere, a 14,000-year-old piece of shit found in an Oregon cave (that particular fecal find is in dispute).
Some brave souls from MIT and the University of La Laguna (“samples were collected by hand,” the researchers said) analyzed the makeup of the samples and found that Neanderthals ate a diet dominated by meat, but definitely ate some plants, as well.
That’s because lead researcher Ainara Sistiaga and his team were able to identify, for the first time, the presence of metabolites such as 5B-stigmastanol and 5B-epistigmastanol, which are created when the body digests plant matter.
The existence of those metabolites “unambiguously record the ingestion of plants,” Sistiage writes in a study published today in PLOS One.
Obtaining the poop wasn’t as gross as you might expect—Sistiage and his team took soil samples, crushed them into a fine powder, and used laboratory equipment to identify tiny pieces of fecal matter.
And direct evidence from something like poop is much better at painting a picture of what Neanderthals ate than analyzing their tools or dental records.
“Except for the evidence of entrapped microfossils and organic residues in Neanderthal teeth, all previous palaeodietary reconstructions have been based on indirect evidence where preferential or selective preservation plays a key role,” Sistiage wrote.
In other words, our previous analyses had a bias toward identifying proteins, because they are easier to detect.
Recent dental records suggested that Neanderthals probably ate plants, but now we know for sure.
We also know, thanks to various biomarkers found in the poop, that Neanderthals had a pretty advanced digestive system that is similar to modern humans.
Advanced digestion, healthy diets, and smarts—Neanderthals are beginning to look a lot more like us than we ever could have expected.
Archaeologists Discovered a Hidden Chamber in Roman Emperor Nero’s Underground Palace
Nearly two thousand years ago, the massive palace designed by the Roman emperor had been hiding a secret.
A hidden underground room adorned with panthers and centaurs has been found by archeologists working on the restoration of the palace in Rome earlier this month.
According to a statement from Colosseum Archeological Park (Parco Archeologico del Colosse), the room, nicknamed “Sphinx Room,” is part of the remains of “Domus Aurea” (Golden House), the huge palace that Nero constructed during the fire of 64 AD, which devastated Rome.
The room was discovered accidentally, while researchers were setting up scaffolding for work on an adjacent room in the complex.
The room’s curved ceilings are 15 feet (4.5 meters) high, and much of the room is still filled in with dirt, the statement reads.
With the use of artificial lighting, crews uncovered a vault covered with colorful frescoes, featuring figures such as the god Pan, sea creatures, plant and water ornaments, a centaur, a panther attacking a man with a sword, and a “mute and solitary sphinx.”
“[The Sphinx Room] tells us about the atmosphere from the years of the principality of Nero,” said Alfonsina Russo, director of the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum.
Nero was the fifth Roman emperor and the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He is remembered as an ineffectual, neglectful and brutal leader, according to the BBC.
When much of Rome was destroyed in the fire of 64 AD, Nero set about the necessary rebuilding of the city, appropriating a large area for a new palace — the Domus Aurea or Golden House — for himself.
The Domus Aurea complex covered parts of the slopes of the Palatine, Esquiline, Oppian and Caelian hills, completed with a man-made lake in the marshy valley.
That lake was eventually covered up by the Flavian Amphitheater — better known as the Roman Colosseum — in 70 AD.
Scholars approximate the size of the Domus Aurea size to be over 300 acres, and it is believed to have included at least 300 rooms.
Experts said they will not excavate the newly discovered underground chamber further for fears for the stability of the complex. They dated the Sphinx Room between 65 and 68 AD.
Final Years of Life In Pompeii Revealed Through An Inscription
Pompeii was a city that was buried in ash in A.D. 79 as Mount Vesuvius erupted, and many people that lived there died. But before that catastrophic event, Pompeii was a wealthy city, and it was filled with parties and struggles
According to an inscription recently discovered on the wall of a tomb found in Pompeii in 2017.
The inscription describes a massive coming-of-age party for a wealthy young man. who reaches the age of an adult citizen.
According to the inscription, he threw a massive party that included a banquet serving 6,840 people and a show in which 416 gladiators fought over several days.
The inscription also tells of harder times, including a famine that lasted four years and another gladiator show that ended in a public riot, Massimo Osanna, the director-general of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, wrote in a paper published in the 2018 issue of the Journal of Roman Archaeology, which is published once a year.
Osanna deciphered the inscription and discussed some of the findings the inscription reveals, including new information that may allow researchers to determine how many people inhabited Pompeii.
The inscription says that, when the wealthy man was old enough to wear the “toga virilis” (a toga worn by an adult male citizen), he threw a massive banquet and gladiator shows.
The banquet was served “on 456 three-sided couches so that upon each couch 15 persons reclined,” the inscription reads, as translated by Osanna.
This information could help researchers determine how many people lived in Pompeii in the decades before it was destroyed, Osanna wrote.
The inscription claims that 6,840 people attended the banquet. Because a banquet like that would likely be served only to adult males with political rights, and those men probably made up about 27% to 30% of Pompeii’s population, Osanna estimates Pompeii’s total population to have been about 30,000 people.
The gladiator show held by the wealthy man was “of such grandiosity and magnificence as to be able to be compared with [that of] any of the most noble colonies founded by Rome, since 416 gladiators participated,” the inscription says.
A show of this size would have taken several days, if not a week, Osanna wrote, noting that if each gladiator fought one-on-one, there would have been 213 separate fights.
Famine and riots
The inscription also mentions a famine, during which the wealthy man helped his fellow Pompeii citizens by selling wheat at discounted prices and organizing the distribution of free loaves of bread.
A famous mosaic from Pompeii shows three people, including a child, at a stall waiting to get bread, Osanna said, and it’s possible that the mosaic shows the event mentioned in the inscription.
Just 20 years before the Vesuvius eruption, in A.D. 59, a riot broke out during a gladiator show, according to the inscription.
The ancient Roman historian Tacitus (AD 56-120) also mentioned this riot in his book “Annals.” The inscription says that, as a penalty for the riot, Emperor Nero “ordered that they [Roman authorities] deport from the City beyond the two-hundredth mile all the gladiatorial households [schools].”Nero also ordered several Pompeii citizens involved in the riot to leave the city, according to the inscription.
The inscription claims that the wealthy man talked to Nero and convinced the emperor to allow some of the deported citizens to return to Pompeii — an indication of the high regard Nero seems to have held for the man, Osanna wrote.
Who was the wealthy man?
Osanna believes the wealthy man’s name and position were carved into a part of the tomb, which is now destroyed; it was looted in the 19th century.
The identity of the wealthy man could be Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius, a man mentioned in other inscriptions from Pompeii, Osanna wrote. Maius is described as a man of great wealth and power who lived around A.D. 59, Osanna wrote. Previous archaeological work shows that a tomb belonging to Maius’ adoptive father, “Marcus Alleius Minius, is located near the tomb with the inscription.
The translation of the inscription is preliminary, and further studies may provide more information about it, Osanna wrote.
Archaeologists may have discovered the village where Jesus is said to have appeared after he was crucified.
In accordance with Luke’s Gospel. Following the crucifixion of Jesus, two of his disciples went to Emmaus, and a stranger walked by them on their way to the village, asked them what had just happened in Jerusalem.
The stranger disclosed that he was Jesus in this biblical story only when they reached Emmaus and stopped for supper.
Two archeologists suggest that an archeological site known as the Kiriath-jearim might be the Emmaus in a document released in the sequence “New Studies of Archeology of Jerusalem and its Region.”
The location of Emmaus has long been a topic of debate, with a few different sites proposed in the past.
While biblical scholars generally agree that Jesus was a real person, they’ve long debated which stories in the Bible actually occurred and which ones did not. The story of Jesus reappearing at Emmaus may have never happened.
Several clues point to Kiriath-jearim being Emmaus. For instance, the Gospel of Luke says Emmaus is “60 stadia” from Jerusalem, a distance about equal to the 8 miles (13 kilometers) that separates Kiriath-jearim from the Old City of Jerusalem, wrote Israel Finkelstein, professor emeritus at the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, and Thomas Römer, a professor of biblical studies at Collège de France, in the forthcoming article.
Recent excavations at Kiriath-jearim have also uncovered a series of fortifications that were renovated during the first half of the second century B.C., and according to the Book of Maccabees, the Seleucid Empire (an empire ruled by the descendants of one of Alexander the Great’s generals) controlled much of the region, fortifying several sites, including Emmaus.
The researchers can’t be completely certain that Kiriath-jearim is Emmaus and not another site fortified by the Seleucids.
But the fact that the site is located 60 stadia from Jerusalem supports the proposal. Additionally, the other sites mentioned in the Book of Maccabees that the Seleucids fortified don’t appear to match up well with Kiriath-jearim.
Adding more evidence for the proposal, pottery found at Kiriath-jearim suggests that the site was inhabited around the time that Jesus is said to have lived. This means there would have been an active village at the site for Jesus’ disciples to visit and where Jesus could have appeared.
Problems with identification
There are, however, problems with the idea that Kiriath-jearim is Emmaus, the researchers wrote. For instance, there doesn’t seem to be any linguistic connection between the names Kiriath-jearim and Emmaus, the researchers noted. Also, other sites do have at least tenuous links to Emmaus: A fourth-century historian named Eusebius wrote in his book “Onomasticon” that Nicopolis is Emmaus.
Other sites also have potential. For instance, Josephus, a historian who lived during the first century, wrote that retired Roman soldiers settled at Emmaus, which he claimed was only 30 stadia from Jerusalem, at a site located near Qaluniya (a village that was not abandoned until 1948).
Finkelstein and Römer are co-directors of excavations at Kiriath-jearim. After their paper is published, scholars not affiliated with the research project will be able to evaluate the proposal’s evidence.